Convict Histories

John Wickey Stable (1801 – 1866) (Reg. No. 4618)

By Irma Walter, 2020.

Convict John Wickey Stable arrived in Western Australia on the Nile on 1 January 1858, aged around 57. His official description was ‘aged 50, married with six children, 5’10” tall, with dark brown hair, grey eyes, a long face, dark complexion, middling stout, and a blue spot on his left arm.’

The next day he was in the Fremantle Prison Hospital, where the surgeon noted the patient’s poor condition. He recorded that before being taken onboard the Nile, John Stable, aged 52, had spent three months in Millbank Prison, followed by two years at Dartmoor and three months in Portsmouth Prison. He had been admitted to the hospital in a weak condition, with bowel problems and difficulty in forming his words. He was released but was re-admitted on 18 February 1858.[1] On 8 July that year he was back in hospital suffering from Erythema in both feet.[2] He was released from hospital on 5 May 1858 and sent back to his division.[3] He was re-admitted and was discharged from hospital on 2 February 1859.[4]

On 5 January 1858 John Wickey Stable was listed as a tailor by the Prison Superintendent.[5] Tailoring was a skill taught in British prisons.

He received his Ticket of Leave on 9 Feb 1859.[6] It was obvious that, due his age and physical condition, he could not do the strenuous physical work expected of other prisoners in the colony. Where he was employed is not known. Perhaps he was given clerical work. On 19 April 1859 Marshall Waller Clifton of Australind recorded in his journal that he had ‘received a letter from JW Stable repeating his demand.’[7] It is possible that Stable was seeking employment. When his Conditional Pardon was authorised on 19 September 1859 a note was made that he was an invalid convict and that care should to be taken not to send out infirm convicts.[8] He received his pardon on 24 November 1859.[9]

From that time no information has been found regarding John Wickey Stable’s employment, or when he left the colony. His death notice tells us that he spent time in Balmain in New South Wales before his death in Queensland in 1866:

On the 28th January, at the residence of his son, Boulton-terrace, Toowoomba, Queensland, JOHN WICKEY STABLE, Esq., late of Balmain, in the 67th year of his age.[10]

It is not known at which son’s residence he died, as three of the Stable sons – John Wickey Stable (Jnr) and his brothers George Robert and Frederick William Augustus Stable – had settled in Queensland. The following notice which referred to their father’s estate appeared in 1911:

Name of Deceased Proprietor.— John Wickey Stable, late of Toowoomba. Solicitor.

Date of Death.— January 29, 1866.

Names of Claimants.— I.ouisa Stable, spinster. Adeline Helen Mary Homfray, widow, and Alice Jane Beeston, wife of Robert Dudley Beeston, Co-partners.[11]



John Wickey Stable came from a privileged background. He was born in 1801 to parents Lorenzo Stable and Elizabeth Margaret Wickey.[12] His father Lorenzo Stable was a solicitor of Hanover Street, Hanover Square, London. John Wickey Stable, Esq., also became a solicitor, living in Welbeck Street in Cavendish Square when he married Louisa, the only daughter of Robert Jessett of the Abbey, Winchester, on 22 December 1828.[13] [Robert Jessett Esq., banker, died on 10 December 1832.[14] Abbey House was bought by Robert Jessett in 1808 and is now the official home of the Mayor of Winchester.[15]]

John enjoyed the good life in the exclusive West End of London. His family was increasing in size, although one son born on 29 March 1833 had died within a few hours of his birth.[16] In January 1830 the partnership was dissolved between John Wickey Stable and James Smith, of Stone-Buildings, Lincoln’s Inn, Attorneys and Solicitors.[17] In 1836 he was employed as a solicitor with the Legal and General Life Assurance Company.[18] His career took a downward spiral when in 1839 it was reported that John Wickey Stable, of Carpenter Street, Berkeley-Square, solicitor, was in the Debtors’ Prison as a bankrupt.[19]

By the time of the 1841 census the young couple were living comfortably at 21 Beacon Terrace, at Littleham, Exmouth, Devon:

John Wickey Stable, 35, Ind., [Independent?]

Louisa Stable, 30,

John Wickey Stable, son, 10

George Robert Stable, 8.

Louisa Stable, 1.

Infant, (N. K.)

(Plus 5 female family servants.)

In 1847 he was employed by the South Wales Railway Company, representing them in Court whenever the company applied to take over sections of farm land needed for construction of the railway.[20]

The 1851 Census gives details of where the children were born, indicating that their father changed jobs frequently. At this time the family was living at Richmond, St John’s District, Surrey:

John W. Stable, solicitor, 48, born Stanmore, Middlesex.

Louisa Stable, 45, born Winchester, Hants.

John W. Stable, 19, law student, born London, Middlesex.

George R. Stable, aged 16, law student, born London, Middlesex.

Louisa Stable, 10, scholar at home, born Exmouth, Devonshire.

Adeline Stable, 9, born Exmouth, Devonshire.

Alice Stable, 6, born Guernsey.

Frederick Stable, 2, Richmond, Surrey.

(Plus a nurse, cook, housemaid and a nursemaid.)

At the end of 1850 John Wickey Stable had been offered a similar post as Law Clerk at the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company, tasked with negotiating the purchase of parcels of land on behalf of the company. His contract included a clause that he should live in Manchester. It appears that poor supervision by management allowed him to issue counterfeit certificates for sums meant to be deposited in the Bank of England, but were instead going into his own private account at the same bank. At the beginning of 1852 his salary was raised from £800 to £1000. At the time he was living in fine style at Belmont, in Cheadle.[21]

On 5 January 1852, John Wickey Stable, gentleman of Manchester, had signed an agreement on behalf of his son John Wickey Stable (Jnr), whereby he agreed that the young man would be taken on as a law clerk in his service for a term of five years.[22] In September 1853 a new agreement entitled ‘Articles of Clerkship’ was signed by John Wickey Stable, Gentleman, of Manchester on behalf of his son John Wickey Stable (Jnr), whereby Cadwallader Edwards Palmer of Barnstable, Devon, agreed that the young man would be taken on as a law clerk in his service for the balance of the term of five years’ clerkship.[23] In 1856 another agreement was signed that the clerkship of John Wickey Stable (Jnr) would be transferred over to John Nesbitt Malleson, Attorney and Solicitor in the City of London, for the completion of his five years’ clerkship.[24]

The fact that John Wickey Stable (Snr) had transferred his son’s clerkship over to another solicitor may indicate pending trouble over his own situation. In spite of earning a good salary he resigned from his position with the railway company in July 1853. By the time his employers realised that John Wickey Stable had embezzled between £7000 and £8000 from the company and learned that he had absconded to Bonn in Prussia. He was arrested there by authorities and was found to have been travelling under a false name.[25] He was brought back to face trial at Liverpool.[26] The trial against the prisoner was written up in great detail by the press. After finding Stable guilty of fraud the Judge summed up the case as follows:

(Longford Journal, 26 August 1854.)

The grim reality of John’s situation and the transition from his privileged life to a prison cell must have hit him hard. His family too suffered from loss of status within their circle of friends. It is not known where John’s wife Louisa (née Jessett) lived during the period following her husband’s conviction and transportation to Western Australia as a convict in 1858. Louisa Stable died in 1871 at Mottistone on the Isle of Wight.[27]

The 1861 Census for the Parish of Barnard’s Inn, in the District of Farrington Without in London, Middlesex, shows John (Jnr) living with his wife, also named Louisa, and his brother George, who had entered the navy as a career:

John Wickey Stable (Jnr), head, born Marylebone, Middlesex, aged 28, Solicitor’s Clerk.

Louisa Stable, wife, aged 20, born Cambridge, Cambridgeshire.

George R. Stable, brother, 25, Officer of Mercantile Marine, born Marylebone, Middlesex.

Further details of John Wickey Stable’s family are as follows:

Spouse: Louisa Jessett, born Winchester, Hampshire, 1804, daughter of Robert Jessett and Frances Rivers. Died aged 66, in March 1871 at Mottistone, Isle of Wight.[28] Probate 15 April 1871: Beneficiary’s Name: Louisa Stable.[29]


John Wickey Stable (Jnr) – born 1831 London. Married Louisa Lister in 1862 at Islington. In Queensland in 1860s. Killed by lightning at Ravenswood on 24 December 1870. His sister Louise, spinster, of 41 Manchester Road, Manchester, was appointed Administratrix of his Estate in 1872.[30] John’s widow Louisa (née Lister) married twice more. Her second husband was Mr. Robert Stuart Lord, who was M.L.A. for Gympie at the time of his death. Louisa’s third husband was Sir Horace Tozer, also a politician before his appointment as Agent-General in London. Lady Tozer died in London in 1908.[31]

Son, born London, 1833, name unknown, died after a few hours.[32]

George Robert Stable – born London 1834. Masters Certificate in Merchant Service issued 26 April 1861.[33] Died in Queensland 1908.

Louisa Stable, born 1840 in Littleham, Devon. Living as a spinster in Manchester in 1872. Died in Brisbane, Queensland 8 September 1921, aged 80-81, Buried in Toowong Cemetery, Brisbane, Portion 16, Grave No. 17.[34]

Adeline Helen Mary Stable, born 1842 at Exmouth, Devon. In 1872 she married William Henry Wickham Pomfrey in Hampshire. Died in France, 1920.

William Lorenzo Stable, born Guernsey 1843. Date of death unknown.

Alice Stable, born 1845 at Guernsey, Channel Islands. Married Robert Dudley Beeston of HM Bengal Army in Sussex in 1867. Spent time in India and then Australia. Place of death unknown.

Frederick William Augustus Stable, born 1849 at Richmond, Surrey. Died in 1870 from falling down a ninety-foot mine shaft at Gympie, Queensland. Probate was granted in 1872 to his sister Louisa of 41 Manchester Street, Manchester.[35] [His sister Louisa was actually living in Queensland by this time.]

The following obituaries tell us about three of the second generation of the Stable family in Queensland:


We (Gympie Times) have seldom been so much impressed with the uncertain tenure of life in these colonies, and especially in the mining districts, as on the occasion of the late shocking fatal accident to Mr Frederick Stable, the younger brother of Mr J. W. Stable, the solicitor, of this town. Our knowledge of the deceased, which was more than sufficient to enable us to retain the remembrance of his estimable character, renders the task of recording the circumstances of his untimely death a very unenviable one. All who were acquainted with him, whether socially, in connection with his ordinary avocation of gold mining, or in the cricket field, must have appreciated the late Mr Stable’s invariable manliness and unassuming demeanour, and he will be very much missed for some time to come.

The evidence taken at the magisterial inquiry showed that the accident could hardly have been prevented by ordinary human foresight. Whilst engaged in emptying a bucket of stone in the usual way, the bucket suddenly slipped from his grasp, and the sudden jerk threw him backward down the shaft. It appears that he fell to a distance of 40 or 50 feet, at which depth the underlay of the reef commences, and that he then turned upon his face and was precipitated to the bottom. The only consolation to the relatives and friends of the poor fellow is that, as regards sensibility to mental and physical pain, he died instantly.

The funeral which took place on Wednesday afternoon was largely attended, deceased being borne to the grave by his mates.[36]


The many friends in Queensland of the late Miss Louisa Stable will learn with regret of her death at the General Hospital on September 8, after a brief illness. The deceased lady, who was born in Devonshire, was 82 years of age, and came to Queensland about 50 years

ago, and, her means having vanished as the result of unfortunate mining investments, she became governess to the children of the late Sir Joshua Peter Bell at Jimbour, and subsequently held the position of teacher of French and music at the Ipswich Grammar School, of which Mr. Donald Cameron was then head master. Later Miss Stable lived in Gympie, Toowoomba, and Southport, finally residing at Milton-terrace, Milton.

She was a remarkably cultured woman, and having travelled in France and Germany in her youth spoke both languages fluently. She won a large circle of friends by her brightness and humour. She maintained her vigour of intellect up to the time of her death, although she was blind during the last two years of her life. Her many friends will cherish pleasant memories of her charming personality, and will recall the many delightful recitations with which she entertained them on numerous occasions. Mr. W. B. Graham, a friend of over 40 years’ standing, remarked that she had shown remarkable pluck amid the difficulties which beset the closing years of her life.[37]


We published a short paragraph some days ago, announcing the untimely death of this

gentleman. The following are the full particulars from the Ravenswood Miner, of December 31:-

On Saturday night last, between 7 and 9 o’clock, a very violent thunderstorm, accompanied by heavy rain and hail, passed over Ravenswood. The lightning at times was very vivid, and several most terrific peals of thunder shook the town to its very centre. A short time after the storm had abated a report ran through the town that the Commissioner’s house had een struck by the lightning, First, the report was to the effect that the Commissioner, his servant, and Mr Stable, solicitor, were killed; afterwards that Mr. Stable alone had been killed, that Mr. Hacket and his servant, although badly hurt and insensible for some time, had regained consciousness and were recovering.

Naturally the report at first was not believed, but on our proceeding to the scene of the

melancholy accident, which is situated close to Elphinstone Creek, about a mile from the township, we found that it was only too true. It appears that Mr. Stable had been spending the evening at Mr. Lord’s, and that on his way home he had been caught by the storm, and (unfortunately for him) had taken shelter at Mr. Hacket’s. At the time the electric fluid struck the house, Mr. Hacket and Mr. Stable were sitting conversing together, Mrs Clarke (Mr. Hacket’s servant) being also present, she having come into the room some time previous. The lightning struck the house immediately behind where Mr. Stable was sitting, splitting and tearing the saplings of which the wall is constructed, and strewing the table and door of the room with the debris. Mr. Hacket was sitting not more than three feet from Mr. Stable at the time, and it is marvellous how he escaped, indeed it is a wonder to us how he and Mrs Clarke did not suffer the same fate as Mr. Stable. As it was they were both insensible for a considerable time.

We believe Mr. Stable, who was about 35 years of age, was a native of Devonshire, and the

descendant of an old county family. He migrated to this colony about eight years ago,

and settled in Toowoomba, where he was very successful in his professional capacity. Owing

to the losses which he sustained by the failure of the Bank of Queensland, Mr. Stable removed to Gympie in 68, where he remained about two years enjoying a good practice. He came to Ravenswood in June last and the large attendance at his funeral, which took place on Sunday morning, testified the respect in which he was held by the inhabitants. Mr Hacket read the burial service over the grave. Mr Stable was married, and his wife is at present living at Gympie.[38]


[1] Convict Establishment Medical Registers by Patient (M4-M6)

[2] Convict Establishment Medical, Register of Admissions to Hospital (M32)

[3] Convict Establishment Medical, Hospital Occurrences (M2)

[4] Convict Establishment Medical, Register of Admissions to Hospital (M32)

[5] Convict Department Superintendent Orders (SO4 – SO6)

[6] Fremantle Prison Convict Database,

[7] Phyllis Barnes et al, Editors, The Australind Journals of Marshall Waller Clifton 1840 – 1861, Hesperian Press, Victoria Park WA, 2010, p.586.

[8] Convict Department Lists, Memoranda and Indexes (128/33-37)

[9] WA Convict Index,

[10] Sydney Morning Herald, 7 February 1866.

[11] Telegraph (Brisbane), 26 June, 1911.

[12] C. of E. Baptisms, 11 July 1801, Harrow, St John the Evangelist, Great Stanmore, 1797 – 1912,

[13] Star (London), 25 December 1828.

[14] The Gentlemen’s Magazine, Vol. 152. p.582,


[16] Morning Post, 5 April 1833.

[17] Globe, 16 January 1830.

[18] Carlisle General, 5 November 1836.

[19] Perry’s Bankrupt Gazette, 29 June 1839, p.412.

[20] Welshman, 24 September 1847.

[21] UK City & Country Directories, 1852-3 Directory of Manchester & Salford,

[22] UK Articles of Clerkship, 1856 – 1874,

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] International Law Opinions, by Lord McNair, Cambridge University Press, 1958.

[26] Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 3 June 1854.

[27] Pall Mall Gazette, 28 March 1871.

[28] Pall Mall Gazette, 28 March 1871.

[29] England and Wales, National Index of Wills and Administrations, 1858-1957,

[30] London Evening Standard, 18 July 1872.

[31] Gympie Times, 26 March 1908.

[32] Morning Post, 5 April 1833.

[33] UK and Ireland Masters & Mates Certificates, 1850 – 1927,


[35] England and Wales, National Probate Calendar 1872.

[36] Darling Downs Gazette and General Advertiser, 7 May 1870.

[37] Queenslander, 17 September 1921.

[38] Brisbane Courier, 23 January 1871.